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In re C.A.J.

Court of Appeals of Georgia

March 30, 2015

In the Interest of C.A.J., a child

Deprivation. Cherokee Juvenile Court. Before Judge Sumner.

Bray & Johnson, Marjorie M. Musgrave, for appellant.

The Taylor Law Group, Clarence O. Taylor IV, Thompson, Meier & King, William E. Carlan, for appellee.

OPINION

Page 458

Boggs, Judge.

In this private deprivation action brought by the maternal grandmother of nine-year-old C. A. J., the trial court found the child to be deprived and placed her in the permanent

Page 459

custody of the grandmother.[1] For reasons that follow, we affirm the deprivation determination, but we are constrained to reverse the permanent custody award, and therefore remand for further proceedings.

1. On appeal from a deprivation finding, we construe the evidence favorably to the juvenile court's ruling and determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found by clear and convincing evidence that the child was deprived. See In the Interest of M. M., 315 Ga.App. 673, 676 (2) (727 S.E.2d 279) (2012). This court does not weigh the evidence or resolve issues of witness credibility. Id. Rather, we defer to the juvenile court's factfinding and " affirm unless the appellate standard is not met." Id.

So viewed, the record shows that the mother and C. A. J.'s putative father had a volatile relationship that involved frequent fighting, verbal abuse, and physical confrontations. The two never married, but they lived together following C. A. J.'s birth at various residences in Georgia and South Carolina. At some point while the mother and father were together, the mother entered into a romantic relationship with the father's brother, Phillip Jones. When the father found out about the affair, he warned the mother not to expose C. A. J. to Jones, who had previously been convicted of child molestation.

In May 2011, the mother ended her relationship with the father and moved into her parents' home with C. A. J., who was then five years old. The mother continued seeing Jones following the move, spending the majority of her time at his residence while C. A. J. remained at the grandparents' home. According to the grandmother, the mother's personal possessions were at their home, but the mother " was never physically" there. The mother subsequently married Jones and became pregnant with his child. C. A. J., however, remained with her grandparents.

On November 1, 2011, the mother visited her parents' home and had a heated argument with the grandmother in front of C. A. J. While C. A. J. watched, the mother shoved the grandmother against a wall and threatened to remove C. A. J. from the home. Two days later, the grandmother filed a private deprivation petition alleging [331 Ga.App. 789] that the mother was unable to provide a stable home for C. A. J., was mentally incapable of caring for her, and had not supported her financially since leaving her with her grandparents. Through this petition, the grandmother requested legal and physical custody of C. A. J.

Following a December 2011 hearing, the juvenile court found C. A. J. to be deprived based on, among other things, the mother's failure to protect C. A. J. from exposure to domestic violence; her relationship with Jones, a convicted child molester and registered sex offender; and her decision to permit interaction between Jones and C. A. J. The juvenile court awarded temporary custody to the grandmother and entered a concurrent plan of reunification and nonreunification. It also developed reunification case plan goals that required the mother to obtain a psychological evaluation and follow all treatment recommendations; demonstrate an ability to protect C. A. J. from domestic violence and sexual abuse; and pay child support.

The mother submitted to a psychological evaluation on January 30, 2012, and the evaluating psychologist recommended that she take part in counseling. The mother commenced counseling the following May with goals to evaluate her relationship with Jones and address how she could keep C. A. J. safe from the risk he posed as a sex offender. In the meantime, C. A. J. also began therapy. According to C. A. J.'s therapist, the child immediately indicated that she liked living with her grandparents because her parents often ...


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